Substance abuse and addiction are two different things, but substance abuse typically leads to addiction in many individuals. Exactly when does the abuse of drugs or alcohol turn into an addiction for these substances? This can be a tricky answer and it may vary for each user. Some people can become addicted after using a drug or alcohol just one or two times, others may engage in substance abuse for months or even years without suffering addiction. The distinction between the two is that one is voluntary and the other is a compulsion. Everyone who drinks or uses drugs makes a conscious and voluntary decision to engage in this behavior. This is substance abuse, but it has not developed into an addiction just yet.
Continued substance abuse carries a high risk of addiction, and the longer the alcohol or drug use continues the more likely the individual is to become addicted to the substance being abused. Once the person develops an addiction then the use is no longer considered voluntary, it has become a compulsion that is extremely hard to resist. If you are addicted then you will continue to abuse the substance of choice even though it adversely affects your life and there are negative consequences to the substance abuse. Addiction is often classified as a mental disorder or a disease of the brain, but substance abuse can lead to a physical addiction in some cases as well. Over time the body develops a physical tolerance, and when the drug or alcohol abuse is stopped physical withdrawal symptoms can occur as a result.